As the days grow shorter and harbingers of autumn appear, another season of change is upon us. For PEOPLE, this September brings a new beginning as well. Jim Gaines, managing editor of the magazine since May 1987, has moved on to work his magic at LIFE magazine. Lanny Jones, for five years the managing editor at MONEY, succeeds Gaines at PEOPLE’s helm.
It is not the first time that the professional paths of these two have crossed. Both Gaines, 42, and Jones, 45, started at PEOPLE as writers—Jones, a former TIME writer, in 1974 after serving five years as editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly; Gaines in 1976 after his departure from Newsweek. Both moved up to become senior editors at PEOPLE and in 1982 were appointed assistant managing editors on the same day. Jones, who was “a master of the PEOPLE story,” according to Gaines, oversaw the magazine’s coverage of the entertainment world and created PEOPLE’s Coping section, while Gaines indulged his passion for breaking stories that often stretched the magazine’s deadline to the breaking point. In 1984 Jones left to become managing editor at MONEY, and in 1987 Gaines succeeded Patricia Ryan in the top spot at PEOPLE.
Eager to keep the magazine from showing its age, even as a sprightly 15-year-old, Gaines ordered last year’s redesign, renewing PEOPLE’s commitment to lively, provocative pictures and to its unique and stimulating mix of news and human interest stories. His appetite for up-to-the-minute reporting (facilitated by a later closing schedule adopted at his request) was equaled by his bemused fascination with the bizarre and offbeat. Stories about an all-feline version of Romeo and Juliet or the marvelous car with two front ends were as diligently pursued as PEOPLE’S extensive, deadline-beating tribute to Lucille Ball or its memorable and moving account of 24 tragic hours in the life of the AIDS plague. Obviously Gaines’s wide-ranging enthusiasms were appreciated as much by PEOPLE’s readers as by its staff: During his tenure, the magazine increased its newsstand and subscription sales by an average of more than 450,000 copies per issue.
Jones, author of the 1980 book Great Expectations, a landmark study of the baby boom generation, describes himself as “sorry to leave my friends at MONEY” but “totally thrilled” to be back at PEOPLE. “The magazine is bigger and more prosperous than when I left, and the people, about half of whom I recognize, are great,” says Jones, who remained a closet lover of popular culture through five years in the trenches of family finance. “There were things I thought I should be reading more of, like Barron’s, but I often found myself reading PEOPLE instead. It demands to be read.”
Jones credits Gaines for giving PEOPLE “a great sense of vitality” and hopes to continue a tradition that has kept the magazine fit and healthy through three managing editors before him. “PEOPLE has a heart,” he says, “and that’s what distinguishes it from the competition.”
Jones, who confesses to a weakness for stories about southpaws (yes, he is one), lives in Princeton, N.J., with his wife, Sarah, a computer instructor, and their three children, Rebecca, 17, a freshman at Princeton, Landon III, 14, and Cassie, 9. “All PEOPLE readers,” he notes. “All interested in Rolling Stones tickets.”
“I envy him,” says Gaines of Jones. “He’s taking over a great staff and a great magazine at a great moment in its history. I wish him all the best.” With a warm welcome to Lanny, we wish Jim the same.